Stoke City FC - Three Months Of The Premier League - Part Three

  Stoke began their third Premier League month with a home fixture against rock-bottom Tottenham, who at the time had just two points on the board and whose manager Juande Ramos was coming under huge pressure from fans. Spurs have now, of course, experienced a mini-revival under new boss Harry Redknapp, who was appointed a week after this game. The chants of ”You’re getting sacked in the morning,” aimed at Ramos by the Stoke fans were proven to be premature, but fundamentally correct.

  The game itself was won 2-1 by Stoke, Tom Soares making a big impression on his home debut to win two penalties, one in the first half, scored by Danny Higginbotham, and one in the second half, missed by Ricardo Fuller. Gareth Bale was dismissed for the foul that earned Stoke the first penalty, before Darren Bent equalised for Tottenham. Rory Delap showed he is more than just a long-throw in the second half though, capping off a good Stoke move down the right to score the winner while Spurs had Michael Dawson sent off late on.

  This match was the definition of a relegation six-pointer, and one that Stoke did very well in winning, to pull away from the bottom of the league. The second win of the season is also important, and now it had come hopes were high that the season would really get going from this point onwards.

 

Delap celebrates scoring the winner for Stoke before Thomas Sorensen suffers a nasty facial injury after a collisionwith Alan Hutton that earned the spurs player a booking.

  A week later Stoke traveled North to Manchester to face the richest club in the world in Manchester City at Eastlands. Any hopes that a second consecutive league win would be produced for the first time of the season were put to rest though by an inspired Robinhoperformance, the £32 million signing scoring a hat-trick and giving Manchester City a 3-0 win. In truth, the Stoke performance wasn’t quite there that day, but without the class of Robinho the game may have ended a 0-0 draw. It just goes to show what you can do when you can spend more on one player than the whole of our squad put together cost. 

 

Robinho inspired Manchester City’s 3-0 win

  After a loss, it is always good to get onto the next game as quickly as possible, so it was lucky for Stoke that the perfect chance to get things back on chance game just three days later, with the visit of fellow bottom half scrappers Sunderland on a Wednesday night at the Brit. The decisive moment in a game that otherwise failed to capture the imagination came in the 73rd minute from a source that has as yet been, and will continue to be, vital to our chances this season, Ricardo Fuller powering in a header from Rory Delap’s long throw. It was enough to give Stoke a three point haul that took us up into the mid-table places, climbing above Newcastle, West Brom, Bolton and Wigan.

Fuller’s fourth of the season was enough to give the Potters the points against Sunderland

  The following Saturday, Stoke faced a seemingly far tougher prospect with the visit of Arsenal. The victory against the Gunners, 2-1, courtesy of Fuller and Olofinjana, both goals coming from Delap throws, was far easier than the one against Sunderland. Gael Clichy’s heavily deflected late strike gave the scoreline the look of a contest it never was, was Stoke genuinely out-thinking and out-fighting one of the best sides in European football. It’s not often I get to say that! Robin Van Persie was sent off for Arsenal, resulting in a petty tirade from Arsene Wenger about Stoke’s physical style. Wenger’s comments did little to take the gloss from the win for Stoke, one that will surely go down as the best of the season come May.

  It was also, Stoke’s third consecutive home win in the league, and with home form so crucial to launching a successful bid to stay up, this was very enthusing.

Picture of Rory Delap Picture of Seyi Olofinjana Picture of Ricardo Fuller

Delap, Olofinjana and Fuller were the heroes as Arsenal became the latest victims of fortress Britannia

After such a great result, it was always going to be hard to be motivated for the next match, which came in the shape of a visit to Wigan. A dour goalless draw was the result, with stoke having Sorensen to thank for some fine saves to keep the scores level. Still, any away point is a good one, and as this was an early kick-off, Stoke were momentarily elevated as high as ninth position, before dropping down to twelfth as a result of the weekend’s other fixtures. Seven points from any three Premier league games is an excellent return, so it was great to see Stoke hitting some good league form. The only problem was in order for it to continue, a result away at Manchester United would be necessary.

  The Carling Cup was again on the agenda on the Tuesday night after the Wigan game, with a weakened Stoke side easing past League Two Rotherham 2-0, with goals from Glenn Whelan and Danny Pugh, Pugh’s first for Stoke. The Carling Cup is looking ever more likely to provide a real chance of silverware for Stoke, particularly with lower a ranked side again being the opposition for the next round, in Championship Derby. The Rotherham game was the fourth straight home win, and with the next three home games being against the struggling West Brom, Hull and Derby, I see no reason why this cannot become seven.

Whelan curls home the opener for Stoke

  So, last Saturday it wasanother trip to Manchester for Stoke, with United this time being the opposition. The less said about that match the better, Manchester United running out 5-0 winners, a heavy defeat, but one that will not be too damaging in the long run.

  It is not the results away at the likes of Manchester United that will decide our league status for next season, it is games like the next two, at home to fellow promoted sides West Brom and Hull that will be vital. With the month from November 16th to December the 16th also featuring games against other relegation candidates in Fulham, Newcastle and Blackburn, let’s hope the fourth month of the Premier League will be as successful for Stoke as for the most part the third month was.

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